On 30 May 2013, Bridger was found guilty of April's abduction and murder, in addition to perverting the course of justice. He was sentenced to life imprisonment, with the trial judge ordering that he never be released from prison.
On 3 October 2012, April Jones' mother made an appeal for information about her daughter. The following day, the Prime Minister, David Cameron also issued an appeal to the public, commenting, "clearly having this happen to you, and the fact that she suffers from cerebral palsy, something I know a little about from my own children, only makes this worse. My appeal would be to everyone. If you know anything, if you saw anything, heard anything, have any ideas you can bring forward, talk to the police."
In the days following her disappearance, a large search operation for the girl was mounted around the Machynlleth area, involving police and search and rescue teams using specialised equipment, as well as hundreds of volunteers. On 12 December, police stated that the search for Jones would continue into 2013. On 27 March 2013, police revealed that they would call off the search at the end of April, and on 22 April, police confirmed that the search had officially ended. The police stated that "a reactive team of specialist officers are available to respond to any new information that is received." This was the largest missing person search in UK police history.
Mark Bridger, a 46-year-old local man, was arrested on the afternoon of 2 October 2012, the day after April went missing. He became a suspect in the case because he matched a description of the man and the vehicle, a Land Rover which an eyewitness had seen April entering following a conversation with the man.
On 5 October 2012, police officially designated the case a murder inquiry. Sky News presenter Kay Burley was accused of insensitivity after breaking the news of Jones' probable death live on-air to volunteers who had been searching for her. The interviewees were unaware the case had changed from a search for a missing person into a murder inquiry.
On 6 October, Bridger was charged with child abduction, murder, and attempting to pervert the course of justice. He appeared before magistrates at Aberystwyth on 8 October, where he was additionally charged with the unlawful concealment and disposal of a body. He was remanded into custody and held at HMP Manchester pending an appearance at Caernarfon Crown Court, which occurred on 10 October via videolink.
On 14 January 2013, at Mold Crown Court, Bridger pleaded not guilty to the charge of murdering Jones, but accepted that he was "probably responsible" for her death. The trial was to begin on 25 February at Mold Crown Court, but it was adjourned until 29 April at the request of Bridger's defence team in order to make further inquiries.
Mark Leonard Bridger was born at the War Memorial Hospital in Carshalton, London, on 6 November 1965, the middle of three children of Pamela and policeman Graham Bridger. He has an older sister and younger brother. He grew up in a semi-detached house in Wallington, London. He attended John Ruskin High School in Croydon, leaving with seven CSEs.
Bridger had a history of legal infractions. When he was 19 he was convicted of firearms offences and theft. He moved to Wales in the 1980s, and there he was convicted of criminal damage, affray, and driving without insurance in 1991. The next year, he was convicted again, for driving whilst disqualified and without insurance. In 2004, he was convicted of battery and threatening behaviour; in 2007 he received his fifth conviction, this time for assault.
Bridger's work history is varied, having been an abattoir worker, hotel porter, firefighter, lifeguard, mechanic, and welder. He has six children by four women, including two by his wife, whom he married in 1990.
The trial of Mark Bridger began on 29 April 2013 before judge Mr. Justice Griffith-Williams. A forensic expert told the court that fragments of human bone consistent with a "younger individual" had been found in the fireplace of Bridger's cottage. Blood found in several parts of the cottage was matched to April's DNA. In his defence, Bridger claimed that he had accidentally run over April in his car and could not remember disposing of her body due to alcohol and panic. On 29 May the judge concluded his summing-up, and then ordered the jury to retire to consider its verdicts. On 30 May 2013, Bridger was found guilty of abduction, murder, and perverting the course of justice. Later that day, he was sentenced to life imprisonment with a whole-life tariff, having been called a "pathological liar" and "a paedophile" by the judge.
After the verdict, it was revealed that Bridger had confessed to the Strangeways' prison chaplain that he had disposed of April's body in the fast-flowing Dulas, which flows past Bridger's house before terminating in the River Dovey near Machynlleth. Dyfed-Powys Police have said they doubt Bridger's claims and believe he scattered April's remains across the countryside near his house.
In July 2013, while serving his sentence, Bridger was attacked by a fellow prisoner with an improvised shank, resulting in facial and throat injuries, for which he received stitches. In December 2013, Bridger launched an appeal against his whole-life sentence, but dropped the appeal in January 2014.
On 8 October 2012, a 19-year-old male from Chorley in Lancashire pleaded guilty to sending a grossly offensive message and for posting comments about Jones and Madeleine McCann on his Facebook page, an offence under section 127 (1)a of the Communications Act 2003. He was sentenced to 12 weeks' imprisonment in a Young Offender Institution. In a separate case, an 18-year-old male from Worcester, who posted his opinions about the case on his Facebook page, was given a six-week suspended prison sentence on 7 November, and ordered to do 200 hours of community service.
Although her body was never found, the funeral service for April Jones was held in Machynlleth on 26 September 2013.
After Bridger's arrest, police discovered an extensive collection of child abuse material on his computer. In November 2013, partly after campaigning by Jones's parents, the search engines Google and Bing modified their systems to block results from searches aimed at producing child abuse images.
On 4 August 2014, it was announced that the cottage in Ceinws, Powys, where April is believed to have been killed, had been purchased by the Welsh government for £149,000. The cottage was demolished in November 2014. April's family watched the house being demolished.